Ruskin Glass Centre
BPN Architects were appointed by Ruskin Mill Educational Trust (RMET) for the development of this commercial centre and visitor facility which uses glassmaking as a focus for the College. The College’s ethos is to provide education through crafts and heritage and as such, many local craftspeople involved with glassmaking in the area have moved into the centre and become a part of the college.
Glassmaking was once a major concern in the area with several world class businesses being based in Stourbridge. The Glasshouse site was formerly the home of Royal Doulton Glass who produced crystal on site until 2001. RMET took over the site in 2002 following its closure and were successful in obtaining funding for Phase 1 of the works through Advantage West Midlands in 2008.
The Phase 1 building has been extensively refurbished but retains and re-uses much of the fabric and structure of the old Glasshouse to provide small independent commercial workshops and a series of incubator units for startup businesses with managed workspace providing equipment for hire.
A visitor cafe and exhibition area take the central space to encourage visitors into the complex and help smaller businesses to grow. Students from the college are given vocational experience as part of a wide ranging curriculum and will be encouraged to help businesses, to prepare food grown by a local farm, or help maintain the building. A series of glass castings were prepared by students and form part of the final interior fit out.
Sustainability was a major focus for this project:
- Re-use of an otherwise derelict site and structure where possible
- A-rated materials used for new structure and fabric
- Low energy lighting and appliances
- Low-Nox heating system and improved u-values over building regulations
- Encouragement for public transport or cycling with changing and showers provided
Phase 2 of the development was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Arts Council and involved the refurbishment and extension of the historic Lower Glasshouse to provide a Museum, Arts facilities and theatre space. The new Heritage and Arts Centre includes a visitor element within the basement area and a performance and exhibition centre above as part of the main Glasshouse College facilities. The historic furnaces and glass moulds, hidden from the public for many years, will now form part of a new heritage trail for the site. Phase 2 was completed in August 2012 in time to host the International Glass Festival.
The third and current phase of work is made up of two buildings: the development of the Acid House at the rear of the existing glass centre which will provide an additional 5 workshops; and Yates’ Yard which will become a reception for Glasshouse College, as well as providing 2 further workshops, and a gallery and activity space.
Photos by SM2 Studio.